I first found myself drawn to Don’t Starve because it’s a life-goal of mine, and I meant only to find a virtual kindred spirit, but was pleasantly surprised find quite a bit of substance to such an aptly named game. There are few titles in the survival genre that aren’t accompanied with the word “horror,” and Don’t Starve aims to be one of its most quirky examples, rendered in 2.5D and with a macabre sense of humor that goes hand in hand with its Tim Burton-esque art direction.
The world of Don’t Starve is as unforgiving as it is rich with exploration and experimentation. Distinct biomes, populated by their own types of flora and fauna can be harvested for use in food for staving off hunger or Science, the game’s crafting system, through which tools and structures may be built to suit the many needs of the player, from farming to housing pig-men. These biomes are arranged randomly through a procedural generator, meaning two players can have vastly different experiences and difficulties, as well as giving a nod to the more hardcore enthusiasts.
However, gathering is only safe in the day, provided you aren’t beset by the game’s ravenous hordes of predators. By night, an invisible creature stalks the game’s environments, capable of taking you straight to the hell that is the game over screen, with your only line of defense being a campfire kept fed throughout the night. This makes daylight a frantic exercise in time management as you attempt to balance between gathering materials for the long haul, running back to your camp, or possibly setting up for the night in unknown territory.
There are currently a handful of unlockable characters available in the current build, all wonderfully alliterative as they are unique. Wilson, for example, is the first character available, and can, with time, grow a beard of Gandalfian proportions, after which you can shave it off, collect the beard hairs, and then craft a Meat Effigy with which you can revive yourself from an accidental death. Willow on the other hand, is, while being immune to fire damage, can also create campfires on the spot, which can easily mean life or death while out in the middle of nowhere. Further characters can be unlocked by surviving for a certain amount of days, with each day granting a certain amount of experience toward another one.
Don’t Starve, due sometime in March for the PC, is currently available as a beta for purchase on Steam, with a steady stream of content updates that expand on the game’s mechanics.